Q:

Let's assume 25 or so years from now physicists discover a more efficient means to produce a significant quantity of antimatter and a means to store the positron material. If say, 6 ounces were produced and an accident happened and an annihilation began, what would you estimate the extent of the damage on earth to be? What if the 6 oz of positron material were stored 25000 feet above the earth- would the damage be the same. I ask these questions because I am writing a sci-fi novel.

- Ray (age 38)

San Diego

- Ray (age 38)

San Diego

A:

The scenario is unrealistic, but the energy would be easy to calculate. The energy released by the annihilation of 12 oz (matter + antimatter) is just given by mc^{2}, where c is the speed of light. The energy is around 3*10^{16} Joules. Expressed in units more familiar for this type of event, that's around 5 megatons of high explosive energy. So it would be like setting off a very large hydrogen bomb. The damage would obviously depend on what was nearby.

Mike W.

*(published on 02/21/2015)*